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WAVE holds public lecture on enforced disappearances, others

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By Tabora Bojang

The Women’s Association for Victims Empowerment (Wave) is hosting a series of public lectures on the ongoing transitional justice mechanisms in The Gambia aimed at promoting and fostering public participation on TRRC outcomes, government responses, and their implications for peace building, reconciliation, and human rights in the country.

The lectures were held in partnership with the Ministry of Justice’s Post-TRRC Unit and the African Centre for Legal Research and Training.

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The inaugural lecture was held at the African Centre offices in Bakau and attended by victims and victims’ families, university students, representatives from the Justice Ministry, National Human Rights Commission, African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances Aneked, and the Gambia Victims Centre.

Speaking at the opening of the lecture, Wave co-founder Priscilla Yagu Ciesay, emphasised the significance of the lecture in fostering dialogue, sharing of experiences and promoting understanding about the challenges faced by victims in seeking justice, truth, and reconciliation in the aftermath of human rights violations and abuses under the former regime.

The lectures she added will also help empower victims by providing them with a voice and a platform to share their narratives, contributing to the healing and reconciliation process.

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Ms Ciesay, also expressed delight that these ongoing public lectures would go a long way to enlighten and nurture participating students to become proactive individuals in a just and inclusive society.

In his address, Magistrate Peter Che described enforced disappearance as a serious crime in nature that could amount to crimes against humanity when it is systematic.

He said although The Gambia has signed the International Convention Against Enforced Disappearances in 2018, there still remain gaps in the legal framework against it, since the convention has to be domesticated.

“This treaty gives responsibility to the state to criminalise the act of enforced disappearance. There should be no room for arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, the state is the protector and if enforced disappearance is systematic; it can amount to crime against humanity. So, those calling for the former president Jammeh to be charged with crimes against humanity are not far-fetched because the revelations at the TRRC pointed out that these acts were systematic and the family members testified,” Che who also lectures at the UTG Law School added.

Aneked country director, Sirra Ndow, lamented that problems of enforced disappearances remain in The Gambia as cases like detention incommunicado and detention beyond stipulated constitutional timeframes, continue to occur unabated by state agents.

Ms Ndow said there is need to augment advocacy and discussions around the issue of enforced disappearances in The Gambia to make the “Never Again” slogan a reality.

She also urged the government to expedite the process of domesticating the convention of enforced disappearances and ensure there is a national day to honour the memory of victims of enforced disappearances.

Awa Njie, widow of Abdoulie Dot Faal who was killed by state agents in the November 11 massacre, and Oduro Mensah Emmanuel Gerson, brother of a Ghanaian victim who was murdered in The Gambia in 2005, lamented the slow pace of government’s reparations scheme when most victim families are experience dire economic and health straits.

“We will not see justice as fully served until Jammeh is put behind bars,” Mensah stated.

Saffie Nyang from the Ministry of Justice assured the families of victims that the government remains committed to serve justice, ensure closure for victims and provide reparations with the commission on reparations to be established soon.

She said although capacity gaps remain in fully implementing TRRC recommendations on enforced disappearances, a committee tasked to locate the whereabouts of victims will also start work soon while a consultant is hired by the government to help look into legislation on enforced disappearances.

The session ended with a question-and-answer session which availed opportunity to victims and students to ask pertinent questions about The Gambia’s transitional justice mechanisms.

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